By Ashley Forseille, Operations Coordinator at Dyspatch
Battlesnake has become an annual highlight for the Sendwithus team and 2018 was no exception! We love connecting with sponsors and competitors from across the Pacific Northwest and seeing the creative ways that teams earn their way into the winner’s circle. Thank you to the 600 attendees who joined us this year, and if you weren’t able to make it, we hope you’ll join in next year!
We couldn’t do any of this without the generous support of our sponsors. Battlesnake 2018 was presented in partnership with GitHub, who brought an amazing energy to the event. The Bounty Snake competition was fierce this year! Keep reading for more about Bounty Snake Sponsors AppColony, Semaphore, Accio, Bambora, Redbrick, Giftbit, Checkfront, Rooof, and Workday. Thank you to Community Partners Lighthouse Labs, Used.ca, the City of Victoria, MetaLab, Sequoia Coffee, and Certn. And the After Party sponsored by VIATEC kept the energy going long after the tournament ended. A huge thank you to all of our sponsors for making Battlesnake 2018 another major success!
What is Battlesnake?
Battlesnake is BC’s largest programming competition, held annually in Victoria, BC. The tournament is a multiplayer version of the classic arcade game Snake, with teams programming a web-based snake AI to compete against up to seven other snakes.
As for basic objectives, teams need to ensure that their snake doesn’t run into the walls of the gameboard, collide with other snakes, or run out of health. Competitors work from there to build a snake based on the strategy they think will bring them the win. Here are the strategies used by three teams that came out on top:
- “Instead of having one strategy, we actually programmed many different strategies into our snake so that it could consider all of them and choose which was best at each point in time. We simulated as many futures as possible, emphasizing the scenarios that are more likely to actually occur and choose the best one, then optimize, optimize, optimize, so that it can simulate enough moves in the future over enough potential branches of time to make a good decision using just the 200ms available.” (Expert 1st place, Team Graeme and Chris)
- “I think we were the only heuristic-based snake to place in the advanced division, meaning we didn’t use more advanced AI strategies. We thought we could make up for that by being really safe, and a little clever, and dealing with all of the edge cases in the game properly (like walking on tails, and head to head collisions).” (Expert 3rd place, Team Bitcoin)
- “Our team’s strategy was to use AStar to find different points on the map – whether it was food, our own tail, or some free point on the board – to get out of a sticky situation. We tested a couple different conditions, and then sent the move back that would *at the very least* give our snake a bit more time to get a good move. We gave priority to following our tail, and would only dart out to get food if we were below a certain health limit, which we tweaked throughout the day.” (Beginner 1st place, FeistySnake).
Let’s Talk Details
A few things that we loved from last year, and continued for Battlesnake 2018:
- We outgrew the first floor of the Victoria Conference Centre, but luckily the second floor offered the perfect space for Battlesnake 2018. We loved having one big workspace for people to work in Carson Hall, with the option of working in one of the smaller breakout spaces for those who needed a break from the energy in the main room.
- Thank you to the Food Truck Festival for once again fueling our teams! After all that cold weather, we were happy to have a sunny day to enjoy some fresh air at lunch.
- 2017 was the first year we brought you Bounty Snakes, and they slithered into our hearts. This year, we had 11 sponsor-built Bounty Snakes for competitors to challenge. Bounties were huge this year, and ranged from to board games and t-shirts to GoPro cameras and even $1000 cash. Congratulations to all of the teams who brought home a bounty!
We also made some improvements! Here are some of the highlights:
- We added training snakes, to help folks test their code. Ranked progressively from one to ten, competitors were able to see how their code would measure up to the competition.
- We were so excited to have GitHub as our partner sponsor this year! The GitHub Education team brought a ton of knowledgeable mentors to help get snakes running. And how great is that Student Developer Pack?! Make sure to check it out, if you’re eligible.
- We offered streaming tutorials for folks who couldn’t be at our in-person tutorials or who wanted to ask more questions. Check out the videos on Twitch produced by Sendwithus Product Development Manager Jem.
- We had a coffee sponsor! Thank you to the folks at Sequoia Coffee for keeping us caffeinated.
- Bounty Snakes are built with very specific win conditions in mind. Why not throw them all on a board and see who comes out on top? We added a Bounty Snake tournament, for bragging rights, and Checkfront came out on top.
- We were able to stream the Battlesnake tournament live! This has been our goal for a few years, and one of our developers was able to make it happen. Huge shout out to Brandon for this tournament footage!
- And finally, we had a presentation cheque for the winners. A. GIANT. CHEQUE.
Keep Slithering and See You Next Year
Battlesnake started as a way to enjoy programming with our colleagues, and we hope it continues to be the same for you! We want Battlesnake to be a place you come to connect with other developers, learn about tech companies in the Pacific Northwest, and help grow the local tech community.
One of our favorite parts of talking to folks about Battlesnake is the diverse reasons that keep them returning year-after-year. First place winners Graeme and Chris see that, “Software companies can get really siloed, so it’s great to have an event that smashes down those barriers.” We couldn’t agree more! It’s great to see everyone from high school and university students, professional developers, marketers, sales folks, and people who just love to code gather to enjoy honing their craft while drinking a gallon of coffee. Many students comment that they’re in it to learn skills that will help them build a career. Placing third in the Expert Division, Team Bitcoin told us that, “Tons of the skills you learn from doing [Battlesnake] are directly applicable to what you might need for a co-op, or your first job. So it’s really cool that a fun event also manages to impart useful skills!” Others, like FeistySnake, come for all of the above: “Exposure to the tech community, being able to work collaboratively with our peers, and the stickers!” We love the stickers, too, FeistySnake.